Rafat and the Unemployed Workers Federation


Today Mohammed invited us for coffee at the home of some of his friends in Rafat village, outside Ramallah. Rafat is only 100 meters from an Israeli military base and the infamous Ofar prison. The people that we met with were all unemployed or partially employed, suffering from the depleted job market that followed the second intifada of 2002.

We met with Waheeb Hamin, his five children, Waheeb's father Ameen Hamin, and Anwar Bahin. Both Waheeb and Ameen have been unemployed for nearly a decade, Waheeb because of the second intifada and Hamin because of injury. Before the second intifada, when West Bank and Gaza residents were able to legally work inside Israel, Waheeb was working as a maintenance man inside a Jerusalem hotel. Following the second intifada, over 250,000 Palestinian workers within Israel (some with work permits, others working "illegally") were fired and banished from working inside the green line. As a result, Waheeb was forced to switch professions and became a house painter. But because of the poor job market in the West Bank, work is hard to find especially in winter.

The job market in the occupied territories is depressed by several factors: checkpoints inhibit workers from traveling freely; restrictions on imported and exported goods prevent businesses from growing; the resulting poverty and lack of fully developed infrastructure make it hard for new businesses to get off the ground; the apartheid wall, the settlements, and artificially inflated water prices make farming (which had once been the predominant industry) almost impossible to profit from—Israel has stolen 75 dunams (1 dunam = 1000 square meters) of land from the family we met with to build the apartheid wall. Additionally, the high unemployment rate in the West Bank floods the job market, causing a decrease in the average wage rate. For example, in Ramallah, single workers from Hebron, Nablus and elsewhere are willing to work for much less than a living wage. As a result it is extremely difficult for people like Waheeb Hamin to find work that can support their families.

Waheeb, Ameen, and Anwar are all members of the Unemployed Workers Federation (UWF), a branch of the Independent Federation of Democratic Unions in Palestine. The UWF is comprised of local committees in West Bank cities and villages. Its main goals are to expand unemployment benefits (such as healthcare, free education for children, and monetary compensation) via pressure on the Palestinian Authority. The UWF also promotes local projects organized by unemployed workers, and supports these projects by finding sources of funding. For example, in Rafat members of the unemployed community are planning to build a chicken farm, which they estimate will provide five or six jobs.

In the West Bank, unemployed workers are entitled to free healthcare, free education for their children, and a share of the money and food collected for them from other Arab as well as some European countries. But these measures, enacted by Yasser Arafat and reaffirmed by Abbas , are not adequate. The “free healthcare” does not cover costly procedures, merely covering clinic visits and the like. Arafat promised to create 300,000 jobs per year, but so far this has yet to happen. The Labor Ministry cites its lack of funds due to the unfulfilled promises of other Arab countries to give millions in aid to Palestine. Today more than 200,000 workers are unemployed in the West Bank. UWF has about 11,000 members, and admits that it lacks the adequate resource to accommodate many more.

Israel has started to "import" workers from Asia to fill the gaps left by Palestinians unable to cross the border. These workers live and work in conditions nearly identical to slavery One anecdote that Mohammed related to us is of a Sri Lankan woman working within Israel. She has been working as a maid for an Israeli family for the last twelve years, on a work visa she bought from the Israeli government. Unable to return to her family in Sri Lanka (to whom she sends her income), this woman is forced to work 15 hour days with no rights and no days off. He offered her the number of an Israeli lawyer who could explain her rights to her, but in order to leave her job site she needs permission from her employers. This is just one example of the harsh realities of imported labor within Israel.

The people we met with in Rafat feel that a central issue is the political domination of right-wing ideologies in the U.S., Israel, and parts of the occupied territories. They have many Jewish Israeli and American friends, and feel that their governments are working against peace and justice. Ameen summarized his position on the U.S.: “George Washington took his freedom from the British, we are waiting for a new George Washington to take his freedom from the Zionists.”

“We don't have democratic governments in the Arab World, but here we hope that we have a democratic government so we can all live together, Jews Muslims and Christians. Enough war, enough blood, enough suffering.”

Waheeb, who has relatives in Texas plans to visit the US in March, and Mohammed would like to accompany him and make a tour of the US on behalf of the Federation. We pledged to help arrange this, and set up speaking engagements while they are there.


Dec. 4th

Today we attended one of Bel'in's weekly demonstrations against the wall. Although the official delegation is over, Mohammed invited the remaining members to Bel'in.

After arriving in the village we joined a meeting of local residents and international activists who were discussing the significance of the protests. The protests have been held at least once per week since February 2005, as a means of preventing the construction of the apartheid wall around Bel'in and of opposing the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

Following this meeting, and before the demonstration, we got a chance to speak with a few of our fellow participants. Of the demonstrators a handful were Israeli (some anarchists), about 30 were Palestinians, and about 50 were internationals like ourselves. One Israeli anarchist that we spoke with, who had recently resigned from his army service, told us that the few Israelis who oppose the occupation are stigmatized within their communities. It was inspiring to see the Israelis who attended, as well as the sheer fearlessness of local residents who refuse to be silenced. Risking injury and death, we marched.

Once the protest began, we all marched towards the occupation. Those in the front were shouting chants in Arabic over bullhorns. Several French activists were wearing tshirts with the slogan "from Berlin to Bel'in, the wall shall fall."

At the fence, the IDF soldiers were waiting for us. As the demonstrators marched closer, the soldiers began shooting tear gas cannisters and firing rubber bullets. Several Palestinian children began throwing stones at the soldiers, who fired tear gas back in response. The children dodged the canisters then went back to throw more stones.

The protest lasted about an hour. None of us could escape the burning tear gas, which came at us in a constant stream accompanied by the loud "boom" of the canister launcher. It burned our lungs, and eyes.

The protests at Bel'in must be seen to be believed, as the inhumanity of the occupiers is difficult to fathom. Fortunately no one was injured, arrested, or killed today, but there have been many injuries, arrests, and even a few deaths as the IDF have been know to fire live ammunition at the children throwing stones, and the rubber bullets can scarecely be considered "nonlethal" as they have killed and seriously injured protestors in the past.

Our last few days as a delegation

The delegation has spent the last few days of our time together traveling around the region, hence the lack of blog posts. We said goodbye to Justin this morning, and Kate will leave tonight. Julianne, Nathaniel, and Rob will be staying in the region to travel, learn more about the situation in Palestine, and participate in demonstrations against the Apartheid Wall.

It should be noted that Sunday and Monday were spent engaged in activities that do not directly relate to the labor aspects of this delegation, but are worth recording in order to provide a full picture of our witness as a group, as well as a political context to understand the labor and economic situation in Israel/Palestine.

Sunday was spent immersed in the history and politics of Jerusalem, beginning with a stop at an ever expanding Jewish settlement in a largely Arab section of East Jerusalem. Palestinians had recently been forcefully evicted from their homes by settlers and hired guards, and are living in tents on the street while the settlers occupy their homes. This area had been granted to 1948 Palestinians by the Jordanian government in 1956, and has long been an area populated by Arabs. At the time of our visit, the residents of the homes, as well as a handful of activists, were anxiously awaiting an Israeli Supreme Court decision that would determine the owners of the land. Throughout our delegation, we've listened as Palestinians cite Jerusalem as central to any peace negotiations, and this experience certainly brought those conversations to life.

Monday we had the excellent opportunity, thanks to our guide Mitri, to ride a chartered bus to the Golan Heights, in commemoration of the release of 4 political prisoners, some of whom had been in jail for as many as 25 years. The Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied Syrian territory, whose beauty is marred by fields pocked with landmines, some of which wash down the hills to the residential areas when it rains. We shared an impressive feast with the released prisoners and a group of about 50 Palestinians, many of whom were members of the FIDA party. The bus ride, while long, was a lot of fun, with dancing, singing and clapping all the way up the mountains. On the way back, the music of Umm Kulthoum paired with the sight of the sun setting into the Sea of Galilee offered a pensive and relaxing trip, and the delegation parted ways with Mitri and the others in Tiberias. The group had one minor scare at a checkpoint; two of our delegation members were pulled off the bus and interrogated. The questioning, however, was thankfully short-lived.

The last day of the delegation was spent in Nazareth, where we met with two labor organizations: Sawt Al-Amal [Voice of Labor] and Ma'an, or the Workers Advice Center. For readers who are not familiar with the area, Nazareth is one of the largest Arab cities inside Israel, and the conditions of workers inside Israel, while equally problematic, are somewhat different than those in the occupied territories.

Sawt Al-Amal was formed as an alternative to Histradut, the Israeli union that is closely aligned with the Israeli government, in part because, post 1948, there were no organizations representing Palestinian workers inside Israel. Palestinians inside Israel face institutionalized racism and systematic economic disempowerment, and Sawt Al-Amal works to ameliorate these problems through organizing and advocacy.

The visits to unions in Nazareth lent insight into the dynamics between working class Jews and Arabs, and the situation of Palestinians inside Israel. Sawt Al-Amal as an organization tries very hard to unite Jewish and Arab workers, however, the group finds it very difficult because of the segregation inside Israel. Everything inside Israeli public life is separated between Arabs and Jews. Of all the cities in Israel, only 5 are considered to be officially "mixed". There are 2 school systems, one for Arabs and one for Jews, and the mandatory military service, of which Palestinians are exempt, offers educational and financial benefits to Israelis and not Palestinians.

In terms of labor, there are many Israeli employers that refuse to hire Palestinians, and there are some sectors of the economy where Palestinians are completely barred: the electricity company, the telecommunications industry, the airports and seaports are largely off limits to Arabs. Sawt Al-Amal considers the struggle of Palestinian workers to be the same struggle as workers all over the globe, but unique because of the conflict. They not only face problems of privatization and globalization, but suffer from institutionalized racism as well.
There are efforts to unite Jewish and Arab workers. Sawt-Al Amal works with some of the smaller Jewish unions, who are organizing immigrant workers, as well as the service industry. They frequently engage in political discussion with these organizations, stating that "If discrimination exists, all workers are hurt". Occasionally, Arabs and Jews will take to the streets together, demonstrating for rights within a specific workplace. However, as soon as the conversation turns to the root causes of economic exploitation among the Palestinians, mutually supportive work is divided along ethnic lines. Political tensions run deep, and organizing Jews and Arabs together proves difficult.
A line from the preamble of the IWW Constitution, " the working class and the employing class have nothing in common", sparked an interesting discussion about Palestinian employers. According to our hosts at Sawt Al-Amal, Palestinian employers are not necessarily more sympathetic to Palestinian workers, readily play the "nationalist" card in response to organizing, and are just as likely to break a union as Israeli employers. It is a difficult situation, in part because there is little awareness in the Palestinian community about the rights of workers and the obligations of employers. In general, there is a lack of organizing infrastructure, as Palestinian institutions were either destroyed or exiled in 1948, as well as a general suspicion of unions, as Palestinians had to join the zionist-oriented Histradut in order to obtain a work permit. Sometimes, Palestinians think of unions as the oppressor.

Ma'an unionists had some interesting things to say about foreign workers, especially in the construction sector. Many immigrants are brought to Israel, not on their own volition, but as part of economic agreements between governments. For example, in an agreement between Israel and Turkey, low-wage workers are traded for a guarantee that Israeli tanks will be repaired inside Turkey. These worker's passports are captured, and they work for wages amounting to slave labor. Ma'an has set up committees at construction sites to assist in the organizing of these workers, as well as working on an advocacy level, with, in particular, Thai workers who flood Israeli farms, apparently in violation of international labor laws. One of the more mind-boggling statistics of the afternoon is that there are 300,000 foreign workers and 300,000 unemployed Palestinians inside Israel.

Ma'an is organizing truck drivers, archaeological diggers, freelance television and education workers, and temporary laborers. They also have an extensive women's empowerment campaign, that works to draw women into the agricultural sector. Their primary mode of operations is to assist in the development of the Palestinian job market, and they were first recognized as a union that represents workers as a result of a campaign inside the West Bank. Palestinians inside the West Bank were working for an Israeli-owned quarry, and the employer was not abiding by Israeli laws or Palestinian laws. Ma'an fought for the rights of those workers, and helped improve their conditions. Aside from this campaign, however, Ma'an leaves organizing within the territories to the Palestinian unions, and focuses their efforts inside Israel. The group produced a documentary called 6 Floors to Hell that details the lives of Palestinians working illegally inside Israel.

Ma'an has an explicitly political mission, and believes that organizing the working class is necessary if you want to be a force for social change. They see the building of a union to be the beginning of an internationalist workers party, that would unite workers beyond religion and ethnicity.

It's worth noting that we spoke with both organizations about the Israeli boycott effort that is supported by unions in the West Bank and around the world, and while neither had signed on to the international BDS call , they had very different responses. Sawt Al-Amal did not sign on because the boycott is fairly specific to the occupied territories, and their focus is on the situation for workers inside Israel. As an organization with limited capacity, focus is key. The group endorses the boycott informally, and will support any of their allies with information and statistics in their boycott efforts. Ma'an, however, takes the position that outside countries should prioritize taking action against the wrongdoings of their own governments [using the example of the US occupation of Iraq], and that boycotting Israel is not in line with the Palestinian Authority. Ma'an believes that boycotting the settlement goods is ok, but boycotting everything else is challenging.

And now, the delegation is signing off. We've had a really wonderful trip, have met some truly wonderful people, have been inspired, enlightened and energized by all that we have seen and heard. There may be more posts from individual delegation members in the next several days, but the official delegation is over. Time to get to work in the US!

The Desert!

Today was a day to relax and do a bit of tourism, and the delegation scaled a desert mountain in Jericho, one of the worlds oldest continuously inhabited cities. Jericho is rich in agricultural wealth, with dates, bananas, oranges, and eggplants lining the arid valleys with green. At the top of the mountain, we toured a working monastery, housing the stone where Jesus was said to have been tempted by the devil, and the cave where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. It was peaceful and serene, and offered a much needed opportunity to reflect on an extremely powerful week in Palestine.

And, of course, no trip to the Holy Land would be complete without a dip in the Dead Sea. Israel has confiscated all the land beside the sea, restricting opportunities for Palestinians to
generate tourism revenues from the many visitors to this unique natural wonder. We did have a nice time, giggling at the internationals painting their bodies with the healing mud, and floating effortlessly in the extremely salty water.

The delegation has not even had time to upload any pictures! The internet connection is too slow to get too many up, but we managed to get one. This is the office of our host union, the Independent Federation of Unions of Palestine.

Bethlehem and Hebron


Today the delegation traveled both to Bethlehem and Hebron. In Bethlehem we toured some of the holy Christian sites and had a chance to invest in the local economy, via souvenirs manufactured in the area.

When leaving the city we stopped in a refugee camp that resides right next to the apartheid wall. The wall is decorated with spray-painted art, celebrating the people's resistance to occupation. Many children in the camp were playing with toy rifles, a sad reminder of the day-to-day realities of their lives. Our host Mitri pointed out a blue gate, that if opened would offer a quick route to Jerusalem. Being closed, travel to Jerusalem is extended by half an hour.

On our way to Hebron, we were stopped at a checkpoint. We were let through after an Israeli soldier checked our passports. All along the way we saw settlements as well as dug-up olive trees. We observed that the roads are in very poor condition around Palestinian villages and cities, but are very nice near the settlements.

In Hebron, we toured the old city. Immediately we were confronted with the utter inhumanity of settlers living beside the city, who day by day encroach further into Hebron. Many houses in the city have been overtaken by Israel, and thus the settlers live right next to (and sometimes right above) Palestinian homes. This proximity has proven to be a tremendous bane on the lives of Palestinians living in Hebron. Day-to-day humiliations include trash and boulders that are hurled at Palestinians walking through Hebron's streets. At every turn we saw Israeli soldiers stationed on rooftops, with their guns pointed towards the street.

We were invited to have tea in the home of a local teenager, who described the brutal murders of his brothers by the Molotov cocktails of Israeli settlers who jumped to their rooftop in the middle of the night. We were shown the room where one of the brothers had been burned alive while he was sleeping, less than one year ago. An additional tragedy inflicted upon the family occurred two days ago, when the boys' mother was attacked, causing her unborn baby to die inside her. The Israeli government has offered this family 1 million shekels (about $300,000) to leave their ancestral home, but the family refuses to be intimidated or bought.

After this visit, we went through the Israeli checkpoints surrounding the central Mosque of Hebron. These checkpoints were set up in response to an Israeli settler who stormed the Mosque and shot at Palestinian worshippers. These checkpoints seemed to be intimidating residents rather than deterring settlers' terrorism, because of the way soldiers were yelling at a young Palestinian man. Additionally, while there are many soldiers around the city, a young Palestinian was killed last night at the hands of an Israeli settler.

Beurocrats and Olive Oil Soap

Nov. 26

Today we traveled to Nablus and then to Jenin. During our travel we passed through 7 checkpoints and saw on the hilltops where the Romans had built their symbols of conquest, settlement after settlement. From the hilltops, the settlers descend to confiscate farm land, first by burning and uprooting Palestinian crops. It is important to understand that Palestinians are not allowed to farm or build near the settlements. At the entrance to one of the settlements was emblazoned a Star of David, a figure now used in the context of oppression. The village which once had an Arabic name now has a Hebrew one.

On our way to Nablus, our guide Mitri told us that if you do not stop at a checkpoint after being asked, Israeli soldiers will shoot at you.
In Nablus we met with the Palestinian Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). The PGFTU is allied with the AFL-CIO, and is closely linked to the Palestinian political party Fatah (a similar relationship to the AFL-CIO's with the Democratic party). Entering the building we noticed photographs from the 2008 May Day celebration, the worldwide day for decent work. We met with one of the key organizers of the PGFTU, who told us about people fighting to control their electricity, the difficulties of uniting various Palestinian unions.

While we were in the PGFTU, we exchanged pleasantries with a delegation of socialist unionists from Belgium who are working on a petrochemical project, training workers in computer skills and project management.
Next we met with another high-ranking member of the PGFTU, the general secretary Sa'ad Shaher. He welcomed us to the “house of the worker.” The PGFTU then gave each of us kaffiyeh's made of satin, emblazoned with the PGFTU logo. Shaher mentioned “we can see apartheid everywhere, even regarding the source of water, right before your eyes, occupation is everywhere.” Shaher reiterated points previously discussed in other meetings about the crippling unemployment in Palestine, caused in large part by the occupation.

We asked the PGFTU about its supposed lackluster of the campaign to boycott Israeli products. This week, articles have been published about PGFTU's lack of full support for the boycott, and about its ties to the main Israeli union, Histadroot. Shaher stated that the PGFTU fully endorses the boycott.

In closing, the PGFTU mentioned that in January 2010, the PGFTU will be going on a speaking tour of the United States. We offered to host them in Philadelphia. Their topics will be education and training of unionists, health and safety concerns, and the issue of occupation as it affects workers.

Once we left Nablus, we headed to the refugee camp Jenin to meet with the Union of Women Workers. The Union of Women Workers offers a cooperative for local artisans (who make olive oil soap, bags, pottery, wall art, and other goods), and works to offer parents affordable daycare. The union seeks to alleviate poverty for women, which is difficult given the economic conditions. One representative told us that Palestinian women suffer politically, economically, and socially. The Union of Women Workers focuses on handiwork as a means of employing women, though there is hardly a market. They hope to sell their handiwork internationally, especially their olive oil soap (which we bought and have used to great effect). The Union is looking to raise a few thousand dollars to buy a machine for making olive oil soap, which would greatly improve their productivity.

After the meeting we drove through a part of town that Israel had demolished in 2002. The streets had been rebuilt to be wide enough to fit a tank.

That night, a few of the delegation members celebrated Eid in the home of a friend who lives in Ramallah.


This morning the delegation met with the PLO executive committee member, Saleh Ra'fat, at the offices of his party, the Palestine Democratic Union (FIDA). Mr. Ra'fat reiterated many of the points outlined at previous meetings, especially pertaining to the impact of the occupation. Ra'fat elaborated on the points of Gaza and East Jerusalem, stressing the importance of East Jerusalem in any comprehensive peace. Another UN Resolution has been proposed, endorsed by the Palestine Democratic Union, reaffirming previous resolutions pertaining to the Palestinians' right of return, and their right to live in freedom. This resolution will also include a demand for the end of settlement building.

Looking to the future, Mr. Ra'fat plans to discus the new UN resolution to all the international committees of the UN and to FIDA's contacts in the US, so as to encourage the resolution's impact.

After the meeting, we met with the Independent Youth Union (IYU) which organizes young people between the ages of 12 and 35. Three members of this student and youth group discussed their programs with us and we had an opportunity to engage in a rich discussion on the similarities and struggles of youth all over the world.

The IYU membership is comprised of FIDA party members as well as those that are politically independent. The IYU, with 5,000 members at 7 universities, is comprise of a general Secretary, branches, and branch secretaries. Each branch has its own activities that are specific to their situations. The organization has three levels: freedom seats for students between 12 and 15 years old, a student office for university students, and IYU General for graduates and those who are not attending university. The IYU develops civic and political programs with the intent to improve conditions for Palestinian youth.
According to the IYU, the youth in Palestine face unique problems under the Israeli occupation. The checkpoints, numbering in the hundreds, make traveling even short distances difficult. Because of this, according to IYU, many university students are forced to relocate to their college town, frustrating the tight-knit family structure and putting additional financial strain on families. This strain is added to the barely-affordable tuition costs, which rise every year at the demand of greedy administrators. Education is of tremendous importance to Palestinians, with 92% of the population pursing some form of higher education, and the youth see education as a tool of struggle against the occupation.

Unemployment in Palestine is rampant, and students find it nearly impossible to find work. Average salaries are low, especially compared to the cost of living, and most must take a loan from the bank in order to live. The dire economic situation is in part caused by the occupation, which brings with it restrictions on commerce and a whole host of other issues.

One initiative that the IYU is pioneering is a census to determine the nature of the Palestinian job market, the levels of unemployment, and the interests of Palestinian graduates. IYU seeks to bring together companies, investors, and youth in order to find a solution to the problems of unemployment in Palestine. Because recent graduates find it tremendously difficult to find jobs, many leave Palestine. This initiative will hopefully be able to direct students to a field of study with a robust job market, and thus alleviate the problem of unemployed youth.

Other initiatives include programs for university students, such as supplying textbooks and putting pressure on universities to offer financial aid. Already 12 scholarships have been granted for study abroad in Cuba and Italy, with potential for Algeria in the future.

IYU supports student direct action. Examples in the past have included strikes against increased tuition costs. Teachers at Palestinian universities, whose salaries are meager, have also gone on strike and have stood in solidarity with the students. The IYU is trying to unite students beyond political divisions in order to become a more powerful voice against university bureaucracies.

The IYU conducts workshops focusing on democracy, socialism, secularism, and combatting the cultural and psychological inheritances of the occupation. These are the main values they work on, and while there are objections to this approach, the students find that it resonates with their situation. Cultural values include: how to help the elderly, how to struggle against occupation, how to stand up for your rights as a worker, and how to embody forgiveness.
Leadership development is integral to the movement. The IYU has institutionalized a self-sustaining process that develops leadership skills and prepares new youth to replace those that age out of the organization.

The IYU has membership in both the West Bank and Gaza. Members in the West Bank have only fax, telephone, and email to communicate with their comrades in Gaza. Members in the West Bank participate in campaigns of solidarity with Gaza, such as demonstrating against Israeli aggression and sending material aid. The IYU fully supports the boycott of Israeli goods, and adopts a similar economic perspective to the Federation that a boycott would divert money from Israel to the local Palestinian economy.

The IYU holds a national conference every January, during which their leaders are elected. Their motto is “change ourselves before we change society.” As such, the IYU strives to have equitable representation among their leadership.

The IYU seeks to build bridges with similar organizations abroad. One next step for the IWW is to connect the IYU with student groups, particularly those who are working towards divestment from Israel. More workers are fighting for permission to go into Israel. Workers in Israel are suffering,
After the IYU we held a meeting with the General Workers Union (GWU) of Palestine which organizes construction, public service, health, textile, print media, education, and agricultural workers. The GWU has ten branches, and in the Gaza Strip alone the GWU organizes 14 unions. The GWU also has branches in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Kuwait and Oman (and all are made up of Palestinian refugees). One of the GWU's main focuses is East Jerusalem, where they are struggling to defend human and workers' rights.
The GWU works to educate and rehabilitate workers, in part by lobbying the labor ministry for vocational training services.. In Palestine there are no unemployment benefits, and because the unemployment rate is so high (40% in the West Bank and 75% in Gaza) many families are suffering. The government also does not provide health coverage, and issue the GWU is striving to remedy. This year, more than 300,000 Palestinians received health insurance from a program pioneered by the GWU. Another labor law that BDS wishes to see enacted is a program to create jobs for handicapped workers.Because of the war in Gaza, many people became handicapped.

The main goals of the GWU are to organize workers into unions, and to educate unionists about the labor law and other laws. The GWU is now focusing on health care and negotiations with the Palestinian Authority about laws protecting workers. GWU is also looking forward to developing relationships with friends in Arab countries and to develop projects together with allies in America and other countries.
According to GWU, because Palestine is not an independent state, Palestinians have little power. Members of the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement see it as a civil struggle against Israeli occupation. Peace organizations inside Israel must struggle with us. The GWU has relationships with peace activists in Israel, and believes that grassroots pressure must be applied to Israel. The GWU is calling on friends and unions from all over the world to support their struggle.

According to GWU, though it is difficult for Palestinians to work in Israel (because it is forbidden) many do out of necessity, because there are not enough jobs to be found in Palestine. According to GWU, Palestinians who travel to Israel to work must pay special taxes, but do not benefit from any of the government programs that Israelis do. For BDS, the success of such a measure depends on Palestinian workers groups working inside Israel. Have lawyers to help with cases, but their power is limited. 5 workers have been killed and 30 wounded because they crossed the border illegally into Israel, because the driver was being chased by police and got into an accident.

When we were leaving, a member of the GWU invited us “to meet again when we celebrate the independence of the Palestinian state.”